Sunday, 27 February 2011

We're off

Suddenly it all happens. The broad beans we sowed a week ago are starting to show. We sowed leeks today and started the parsnip seed chits too. Jean dug a bit of the plot while I worked out the layout of the fence alterations. Jean found a few parsnips that we had missed under the snow. They have sprouted and are woody, so they are in the compost bin.

The rabbits seem to have evacuated their hole, with no sign of activity at all. If they are still absent in a couple of days I'll properly fill the entrance hole and celebrate a victory.

The raspberries we moved last year seem to have suffered badly. They were uprooted and moved and soon after the very cold weather and snow followed and I don't think they have survived. It looks like we might have a year with less fruit. I'm going to leave them alone to see what does grow because if I need replacements I would plant them in the autumn. They were part of the original plants on the plot left from the previous tenant, so if we buy some more I could choose what varieties we would like. If some survive I could still top up with a few new canes later this year.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The big dig

The rabbits have fought back, surfacing once more inside the fence of the plot. The only way forward seems to be to dig them out. We started today, but they are deep. I will not give in now until they have gone. We will see what happens over the next few days.

As an aside, the last of last year's broad beans will be on the table tonight.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Rabbit flaps

It has been a quiet time on the allotment, as you would expect at this time of year. The ground is still wet so walking on it just turns everything to mud and damages the soil texture. The best thing to do is to stay off the ground.

There are jobs that need doing though and one is complete, we have bought our seeds for this year's crops and soon the sowing will begin for some of them. We also need to repair and move some of the fencing. I want to move the fence away from the hedge to make it easier to keep the weeds down that seem to thrive there. The fruit bushes don't need to be fenced in, even though they do need netting to keep the birds off. Good fences are important to keep the resident rabbit population away from our leafy vegetables.

We have been tackling the local rabbit population's attempts to gain entry to the plot and we have had some success. They have had a long-standing warren under the bank at the back of the plot and they have made some attempts to gain entry before. Over the winter they surfaced through a hole in the middle of our plot and through a hole just outside the plot next to our shed. I blocked up the hole on our plot, first by filling it in and after they dug that out again by pushing metal bars across the hole so they couldn't get past them. That seemed to work, though we lost our leek tops before they were barred.

I wanted to persuade them that our plot was not the best place to live, without causing them direct harm. I have filled in the main entrance under the bank a few times and the much smaller one near the shed even more times. I know they can just dig their way out, but I hoped that making it hard would force them to go elsewhere. I have put a few rocks and bricks in the main entrance and I think this may have worked. The hole near the shed was there, presumably how they got out, but the main entrance is not touched. I filled the shed-side hole again with earth and I'll be back again to see if that has been dug out.

If they are still there, I wondered about making some sort of rabbit flap. The idea is that the flap, made of wire fencing or even aluminium sheet, would hinge open to allow the rabbits out, but spring shut to not allow them to re-enter the hole. That way the next time they leave the hole they would all be forced to move on into the fields and hedgerows that border our plot.

Am I being cruel? I don't think so. Other plot holders on the site will happily remove them with a shotgun, I am just encouraging them to move on.